18. To facilitate further consideration on the future role of APFIC in the Asia-Pacific region, the Commission established an Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group to discuss future programmes of actions and possible financial contributions by the Member States of APFIC at its Twenty-sixth Session. The terms of reference and workplan of the Working Group were approved by the Commission at its Special Session in February 1999 and the meeting of the Working Group was convened in Bangkok, Thailand, during 6-8 July 1999.
19. Although the membership of the Working Group was open-ended, only ten Member States accepted the invitations to participate. Most Members, however, responded to the questionnaires on the future direction of APFIC as requested by the Secretariat. The summary of the replies was given as Appendix F of the report of the Working Group (document APFIC:ExCo/68/3).
20. The Working Group reviewed the current status of fisheries and aquaculture in the region and discussed the future role of APFIC in meeting emerging issues and new challenges in fisheries management and development in the Asia-Pacific region. The Working Group agreed that the priority areas for APFICs programmes as identified at the Twenty-sixth Session of the Commission remained valid. For its future programmes, in the short-term, APFIC should lay emphasis on the harmonization of fishery policies and strengthening of fishery data collection. For the long-term programmes, APFIC should promote effective marine fisheries management, development of sustainable aquaculture and acceleration of technology transfer and capacity building in its Member States.
21. The Working Group reviewed the current structure and functions of the Commission and agreed that the membership, area of competence and functions of APFIC remain valid as stipulated in the Agreement. As regards possible contributions by the Member States to support the activities of the Commission, most Members indicated that they would consider providing voluntary contributions to support project activities of their interest but not annual assessed contributions as proposed by the Secretariat. No further amendments to the Agreement and the establishment of the Financial Regulations were therefore required at this stage.
22. Although the Agreement stipulated that the expenses of representatives attending the sessions of the Commission and committees be provided by their respective governments, the sessions of the Aquaculture and Inland Fisheries Committee (AIFIC) and the Committee on Marine Fisheries (COMAF) of APFIC had to postpone twice due to lack of quorum. In order to reduce financial burden of the Member States, the Working Group recommended that these technical standing committees should be abolished. The Commission could established ad hoc Working Groups of Experts to assist the Member States on emerging issues as and when required.
23. Recognizing the need to strengthen regional fishery bodies to meet the new challenges, the Working Group recommended that APFIC should initiate activities to serve as the regional consultative forum on fisheries and aquaculture in the Asia-Pacific region. This forum would discuss emerging issues and coordinate activities with other international/regional and intergovernmental fishery bodies or arrangements in the region to avoid duplication of efforts.
24. The Working Group further recommended that the Secretariat should conduct a detailed review of APFICs future functions and programmes of activities for consideration by the Commission and FAO in order to determine what further changes would be required to the status of the Commission in the future. In this connection, the Executive Committee was informed that the Secretariat had conducted the review and the report was submitted for consideration on the future role of APFIC under the next agenda item.
25. The Executive Committee commended the work carried out by the Ad hoc Legal and Financial Working Group.
26. The Committee was of the opinion that many of the issues raised in the report of the working group had to be considered in conjunction with the proposal regarding future direction of APFIC.